Symbiosis: How a Plant Survives By Making Mice Spit Out Its Seeds
A furry mouse scampers across the desert foraging for food before finding some berries on which to dine. From the perspective of many animals, plants represent meals full of sustenance. Plants, however, often have a different take on the relationship. The berries in the scenario just described belong to Ochradenus baccatus, and biochemicals they contain give the mouse an unpleasant surprise.
When a mouse eats O. baccatus berries, an enzyme in the berries' seeds reacts with a second chemical in the pulp of the berries to yield toxic, foul tasting products. The herbivore responds by spitting out the seeds. Biologist Michal Samuni-Blank, from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, filmed Israeli desert mice in their natural environment to shed light on their relationship with the plant.
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